Posted in Anecdotes

Cone Ice Dreams 

She held my hand as I looked both ways and crossed the street. It was ten at night and the road leading to Rock Beach was almost isolated, with just a trickle of traffic. A few people and a couple of dogs loitered in the distance. 

Suddenly she pointed at the lone bright spot in the vicinity, an outlet of Baskin’ Robbins that was still open. I saw a child walking out.

“Ice cream cone!!”

Her voice brimmed with delight and longing.

“You want one?”

She looked at the shop, back at me, and smiled.

“Come on, then.” 

I led her in. An array of exotic flavours were displayed.

“Which one do you want?”

She peered into the glass counter and hestitated. It was not an easy choice, and the familiar tones of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry were conspicuous in their absence.

“You choose one for me”

“You can get a taste, you know. Pick any one you like, and I’ll ask them for a sample”

Her eyes widened. 

“Umm.. something crunchy. That I can chew on as well!” She could hardly reign in her excitement.

I pointed to Mint Chocolate. The guy behind the counter took a tiny spoonful and handed it to her. She licked it up and shook her head. 

“Too minty”

Next up was Milk Choco Chips. That one won her approval. I ordered a cone of the same. The guy scooped a huge ball of it and filled a fancy BR cone with it. I watched him handing it to her as I paid. 

“What about you?”, she asked.

“I don’t do icecreams”, I said laughing.

We settled on a rock and watched the waves crashing.

“You know”, she began, “when I was little, everything was an adventure, and I longed for so many things that you might even laugh at. Even an ice cream was a dream, a luxury reserved for carnivals and such! Another one of my biggest wishes was to watch a plane take flight.. or at least see one up close. I remember, once I was allowed to accompany Mami to the airport for her flight. I got so excited! I put on my best dress and powdered my face. I decided your Grandma was not proficient enough at plaiting my hair properly so I ran to the neighbour’s place and had her do it instead. But alas, by the time I got back they had left without me! It was such a sad day indeed.”

She paused.

“But then, I did get on a plane with you that day after your college counselling session. And now here I am, at a beach in Pondicherry at midnight, having ice cream! Who’d have thought!”, she laughed. “I believe I was meant to see the world through you”

I pulled her closer and hugged her.

“I love you too, Mom”.

Posted in Anecdotes

Mommy’s Day Out

Chennai!

For the upcoming post graduation counselling, I am bound to turn up with certain certificates from the university last attended. Unsurprisingly, I found myself not to be in possession of said documents and am on a detour to Chennai to obtain the same before the big day, accompanied by Mom. (Any event relating to academic accomplishment is generally viewed as ‘the big day’ in the medical community since such trivial things as weddings hold little importance in our lives) 

We reached Chennai at around 6 in the morning and rushed off to Amigo LP’s house to freshen up and reach the university in time to beat any other potential aspirant of certificate acquisition, in accordance with the rules of the rat race. The local trains were not very crowded (I was fooled into thinking this is a normal phenomenon) and once we reached the university gates, we were greeted by a drum-and-horns band committed to blowing the ear drums out of anyone who dared to stay in the vicinity for more than a couple of seconds. I thought this was standard procedure as well. It was only when I saw the banners and floral decorations that I realised the day had been proclaimed a government holiday to commemorate the 100th birthday of the late actor/chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr.M.G.R who, ironically, our university happens to be named after.

Our plans thus effectively wasted, we looked to LP to provide us with alternative excitements for the day. After some consideration, we decided to descend upon Thyagaraja Nagar, or T Nagar as it is fondly called, the perennial flea market of the city.

The bustling crowd moving out of Mambalam local rail station on their way to T Nagar

We arrived there in the early hours, just as the shops were being set up. The street undergoes a steady metamorphosis through each day, with the crowd trickling in during the morning and turning into a human high tide by evening that is sure to literally sweep you off your feet to be washed ashore at the feet of whoever happens to be offering the biggest discounts at the moment. On my virginal visit some years ago, two seconds after venturing in I found myself separated from my able friends and being thrust into a textile shop to haggle for a shawl I didnot need or desire. I shuddered at the memory and wondered if Mom needed protection.

T Nagar in the early hours

Those who have been through my previous posts may know that Mom has lived the entirety of her life taking care of two ungrateful souls, Father and me, and has not had many chances of roaming around and exploring the world outside of our residential area. She’s extremely street smart and carries her own in a way I never could, and was delighted at getting an opportunity to explore whatever little bits of Chennai as could be managed. LP and I decided to make sure she got the most out of it.

Shopping was obviously on top of the list. I treated Mom to her choice of bags and footwear and grabbed some for myself too. But more importantly, it was her taste buds I wanted to entice.

No bustling street in Tamil Nadu is complete without the vendors of varied snacks. Stalls routinely sell boiled corn mixed with butter/chilli as per command and are served as instant healthy refreshment in paper cups. I used to love these during my college days and Mom in turn nodded agreement after tasting her first spoonful.

Boiled sweet corn at the vendor’s

Other roadside favours are bhel puri, pani puri, assorted ice cream cones, lime soda and rose milk.

Since we were travelling I decided to forego the diarrhoeal roadside option and have safer versions of the same at the famous Adyar Anand Bhavan aka A2B. I chanced upon a delightful strawberry cake there and had my fill while Mom and L happily munched on pani Puri and sipped Rose Milk. The pomegranate juice that I ordered drew another excited ooh! from Mom. She readily tasted and approved of the same too.

Strawberry cake for me and pani puri for Mom

It was a very happy day indeed. The icing on the cake were of course our spoils from the day that we managed to procure without drilling a huge hole in my wallet. 

Flea smitten

Is it any wonder that I love Chennai?!

Posted in Anecdotes

Lessons In Life

“It’s go, going, gone“. I correct my mother.

“Went alle?” She asks in innocent Malayalam.

“No, that is the simple past. Gone is the past participle..”

I teach her nuances in the English language two decades after she taught me to spell ABCs. She had always been a stay-at-home mom. Married at 18 and a mother at 20, our home was her world for years. She is an extremely smart and efficient woman. Sometimes I wonder what she would have accomplished had she been born in today’s world with its endless opportunities and dazzling career choices. Maybe an event manager. Maybe a college professor. Or perhaps a doctor, like me. She would have excelled at whatever she did. She certainly excelled at being a mother and homemaker.

An aunt of mine, an entrepreneur of sorts who quit her teaching career to open a yoga institute and find time for social services, had been pushing Mom to join her in various pursuits. There was an idea to start a small tuition centre for children if my mother relented. Mom had her reserves about it – whether she could do it, how she would manage the household chores, what Father would say. After an year of contemplation, she agreed with sparkling eyes and a thumping heart. 

She started working this year with a handful of school kids and the numbers are slowly going up. She has always been great with kids and they love her. Every evening she returns with stories of their cheek or news of their improving grades, smiling from ear to ear. On my birthday she gifted me a watch and my favourite sweets bought with her own salary for the very first time. 

My birthday gift. I could see how proud she was to have bought me that 🙂

She calls me up sometimes to ask doubts about the English chapters. It’s an alien tongue, something she lost touch with after her school years. Synonyms, idioms, sentence structure, tenses, pronouns, clauses. Grammar is her nemesis. But she will fight and learn. I know she will. She excels at being a student too.

Posted in Musings

For Mother Dearest

I stayed with a friend recently. Her grandmother resided with them, a lonely wispy figure in white who you saw moving about, wordless. She was quite healthy for a woman her age, and would take part in the household chores. I often saw her in the kitchen when I went to get a glass of water, silently fixing a meal. Would you mind if I cooked gourds for lunch? Of course not, I’d say with a cursory smile, anything was fine. At other times I would notice her watching television in the hall, repeats of soap operas, translated serials. In the mornings watering the plants as we sat studying outside, inadvertently drenching us in the process, every time.

I noticed the questionable indifference often demonstrated by my friend in her presence. Slight but tangible. Disregard for an innocent inquiry, usually about the meals. Maybe an exasperated tone of voice when something was misinterpreted. The roll of eyes when the hose missed the orchids and watered our books. I felt sorry for her, the wispy silent widow in white.

I kept sensing a foggy familiarity in those gestures, the impatient wave, the irritated frown. I knew someone like that, someone who treated a relative less than perfectly. I groped for the face among the cobwebbed rooms of my mind, trying to discern those discrete clues, till one day I saw the culprit in the bathroom mirror, wide eyed, recognition finally washing over my reflection.

Now I remembered all too well. All the times I waved aside my mother’s questions when I traveled, the exasperated sighs when she asked about college, the nonchalant replies to her many concerns, the apathetic glance I gave the sweet kheer she prepared for my birthday one time.. Mirrored in my friend, I saw the ugliness within me.

I have since been trying to wash them clean, those stains of habitual disregard for the little things I take for granted, the naive show of affection I’ve been blessed with and the endless chatter that I am sure to miss one day. One hug at a time.

Love you mom.